The art of politics is often seen as the art of compromise, the art of the deal. Politicians ask themselves, “How might I explain decisions made, and please 51% of the people?” The job of the politician is viewed through two lenses – what is best for the country, and what is best for the career of the politician – and not necessarily in that order. Risk assessments are done, polls are taken, decisions are made. But what are the priorities?
I live in rural northwest Missouri, Punkin Center – home of Jeff Foxworthy’s cousins. Men around here go to family reunions to look for girls. And we follow politics with a weary eye. We like to send a local farmer to Congress to represent us. So what does that mean – Represent us? Sometimes we get a little confused.
In the beginning there was a revolution, a war, and then a gathering of politicians to write our Constitution. A Republic, they said, would allow representation of all people. Each of the thirteen colonies would have representation in a central government. Each State was concerned the central government would engage a war or some other dastardly act and they wanted to have a say in the decisions. In retrospect, everyone agrees this was a good idea. Part of the idea was that local folks would take turns serving their government. Legislative sessions were scheduled to not interfere with spring planting or fall harvesting – so the representatives could be home to take care of their business.
The evolution of government, of representative government, has taken odd turns along the way. It seems in today’s world that no one likes government financed earmarks – but everyone wants them. Downt the road in St. Joe, Missouri, the city has just asked the Federal Government for 45% of the cost of rebuilding a Civil War Fort as a tourist attraction. St. Joe will be looking to their elected lobbyist, Sixth District Congressman Sam Graves, to bring the money home. Somehow I don’t think this was the original intent of ‘representative government.’
Republican Congressman Graves has been good for his constituents – if good is defined in terms of Federal Government dollars channeled into the district. Every two years Congressman Graves says, “Whoo Whee, look at me. I brought the money home. Farmers get farm subsidies. The Air National Guard in St. Joe gets a new mission. And Civil War Forts that no one knew existed are rebuilt. The point is that I am the one who got the money.” And Congressman Graves is reelected.
Congressman Graves eagerly supported the War in Iraq. Because that is what his Republican Party leaders wanted. He told his constituents that we must fight over there – or we will have to fight over here. The folks in northwest Missouri did not want fighting to interrupt their family reunions – so they supported the Congressman.
Congressman Graves is just one example of what is wrong in our Federal Government. There are about 535 others. The Congress has become a professional endeavor, rather than representative of local input into government policy. The professional politicians have become risk adverse. Do not risk your professional carreer in politics seems to be the highest priority.
Witness Sarah Palin and Caroline Kennedy Schlossburg. Each of these attempts at national office were and are met with challenges to their experience in government. They do not have experience with risk aversion, they might do something honorable for the people without consideration for their own political career – and without consideration for their political party.
The problem is not with the politicians – Congressman Graves is simply fulfilling the wishes of his constitutents. Deny earmarks to others while gathering as many earmarks as possible for us. If you have to compromise on an earmark for Alaska to get the earmark for us – then that is considered good political wrangling.
Simply put, the Professional Politicians of modern America view ‘risk aversion’ as risk to their carreer as opposed to risk to our country.